How many people use my parking lot?


Real estate is a valuable resource, especially in dense areas like cities and busy places like airports and shopping centers. Facility managers need oversight of their assets. They need to know how many people are using their real estate, especially when the manager is not directly on site (for example a facility manager for a shopping center chain). They want to know:

  • How much of my parking lot capacity is being used?
  • How often is my parking lot being used?


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Why should I care how many people use my parking lot?


Let’s take a look at a city case in the US:

The average central business district of an American city includes an inventory of over 4,000 on- and off-street parking spaces. The target area for integration of vehicle detection sensors encompasses a downtown district of approximately 400 spaces in the region’s most active areas. Cities experience consistent growth on average, in turn generating a progressively higher number of parking spaces.

One of the main concerns of a city is to provide the infrastructure necessary for continued growth and development. Parking is an essential component of a region’s successful development, providing the infrastructure necessary to accommodate visitors and residents patronizing local businesses. Parking is the first and last experience people have when visiting a destination and may impact the likelihood they return. Communities across the US have identified curbside management as an essential strategy to support their successful growth and operation.

Some cities do not currently enforce parking time limits or charge for parking. Integrating effective curb management strategies provides the data and information needed to make necessary changes or updates to current parking enforcement practices; to continue to support community growth; and to effectively serve residents, visitors and local businesses.

How can I measure how many people use my parking lots?


Existing infrastructure and construction constraints determine the best approach to figuring out how many drivers use a given parking area:


No infrastructure

If there is no infrastructure, the only way to measure drivers is to manually count the number of cars coming in every day. This can be done by hand on a simple notepad, by proxy (for example counting the number of parking tickets sold), or by tracking parking revenues (assuming there are no violations)… But no matter which approach you use, it will require human presence in the parking area.


Heavy infrastructure at the entrance

Physical entry and exit controls, such as barrier systems, are usually equipped with counters. Whenever a vehicle enters or exits the parking area, a counter increases (or decreases) your total visitor count. Unfortunately counters are known to make mistakes, especially over multiple days and extended time periods.


Light infrastructure at the entrance

Infrared or mechanical pressure counters are common solutions for access control. However, these ground-based systems average at least one mistake every 100 vehicles, and require at the very least a manual recount and reset at the end of each day.


Heavy infrastructure at each parking space

For the past fifteen years most facility managers have relied on infrared curtains or magnetic ground sensors. Both are connected to a central software (Internet of Things, IoT) and can display individual or aggregated parking occupancy data on a dashboard or on a map. This is a widespread technology, but one that has a number of drawbacks, including: initial price (CapEx); operational costs (ground-drilling to replace batteries at least once every five years on average); weak accuracy in adverse weather (snow, heavy rain, sandstorms, etc.).


Light infrastructure in the parking area

Over the past five years new technologies have come to market that provide facility managers with reliable data. These include:

  1. Optical sensors. These are another name for “cameras with embedded vehicle detection software”. They are calibrated in the factory, then installed onsite. They detect parked vehicles and send real-time information to parking managers for both individual and aggregated parking spaces. This technology works well when everything goes according to plan, but they have high purchase costs and weak accuracy in adverse weather conditions. Optical sensors struggle to recognize vehicles parked outside the perimeter lines of individual parking spaces in snowy conditions, for example.
  2. Camera-based solutions. These software solutions can use any camera (video-surveillance, CCTV, webcams, standard cameras, etc.) to provide real-time information on parking occupancy by sending pictures or videos to a server for analysis. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) software installed on these servers can be dynamically trained to provide accurate and reliable results even in adverse weather conditions. For example when there is snow on the ground, the AI software can be trained to recognize and adjust for snowy conditions, guaranteeing optimal results. Some smart parking providers even provide verifiable results, allowing facility managers to check them against the original image data whenever convenient.


If you are interested in a robust solution that reliably delivers accurate results, camera-based solutions are simply the best option.

Automatic real-time alerts when the parking area is nearly full


Some smart parking solution providers offer additional features. For example, facility managers can receive automatic alerts when a specific parking are within the parking lot is:

  • empty;
  • full (e.g. the parking zone closest to an airport terminal);
  • occupied to a predefined percentage.

This information has multiple uses. For example:

  • Dynamic parking guidance system: A parking manager who knows in real-time that one of her parking zones is full can automatically change the on-site dynamic guidance panels to direct drivers to less occupied areas. This avoids unnecessary congestion and helps provide a better, more relaxed customer experience.
  • Optimise real estate use: Based on structured analytics on the occupancy of his parking lot, a parking manager can optimize his real estate assets. For example, knowledge of a certain parking area being underutilized can be the foundation for deciding to convert the property for commercial use and create a retailing mix.

Learn more about how facility managers use camera-based solutions to measure parking lot usage and optimize their real estate


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